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Is Consent Confusing?

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This blog has been contributed by Allana Bennison. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email campaigns@warwicksu.com.

Let’s talk about consent. Is it just a simple yes or no? Can it be implied / non-verbal? Can you consent when drunk?  

When most people hear the word “consent”, they associate it with the word “yes”. If someone says yes, it’s seems to be an obvious sign that they are comfortable & wish to proceed. But there are other things to consider!  

When “Yes” Doesn’t Mean “Yes” 

So, when a sexual partner says yes, does it always mean yes? Have you ever been in a position where you have said yes to someone because you feel obligated? Or simply because you’re an innate people pleaser? Me too. The same thing can apply to sex. But how could we ever know when a “yes” isn’t a “yes”, you may be wondering? If they say no & you beg them, or make them feel guilty, or use some kind of excuse like “I’m already turned on”, that is coercing a yes. That is not consent. If they don’t say yes straight away or of their own accord, it is not consent!  

Simple rule - if someone only says “yes” as a result of pressure you have put on them, it’s not a yes.  

Consent in a relationship - is it necessary? 

When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, sex can seem like a given. You might feel like you deserve sex or that sex is one of the ways you show love. Sex can definitely be an important part of a relationship; however, consent is still important. If you or your partner says no to sex for any reason, it should be respected. Having a partner is not for the sole purpose of pleasure.  

Simple rule – consent is necessary in any situation, whether you are in a relationship, married, friends with benefits, or total strangers. Being in a relationship does not been anyone deserves sex or can demand sex whenever they feel like it.  

Drunk Consent 

Sex plays a major role in drinking culture. When people drink, they tend to be more confident & act on their impulses. It can be tricky in drunk situations, as when two people are both drinking & both have sex, it can be difficult to determine whether or not someone was taken advantage of or not. If you wish to drink with a partner, make sure it is someone you trust, it can be useful to discuss what you are comfortable with beforehand, and always have some form of safe word.  

Simple rule - if you have been drinking, you typically cannot / should not consent to sex, or engage in sex with another individual who has been drinking.  

Revoking Consent 

So, say consent has already been given & two people begin to engage in sex. What happens if one person wishes to stop? Some may think that consent lasts until the end of the encounter. Some may say that once they’ve stopped, they can’t stop. However, it is important to understand that consent can be revoked at ANY point.  

Simple rule - regardless of any prior consent, if one party wishes to stop, the sex needs to stop. If someone continues after you have asked them to stop, this is no longer consensual.  

Non-verbal Consent 

Some people may wonder “do I always have to ask permission?”. It can even be considered a mood-killer. Alternatively, some people may find it very comforting that their partner periodically asks them if they’re okay and comfortable. Consent can however be implied. If you’re wondering whether or not someone wants to engage in sex, you can either ask them verbally, or you can go slowly & see if they reciprocate. If you lean in to kiss them & they pull away, that’s a sign of non-consent. If you place your hand somewhere & they move it, that’s a sign of non-consent. If they initiate, that’s a sign of consent. 

Simple rule - if you’re unsure, ask! Move slowly at first, give them time to tell you that they’re not into it. If they say no, stop what you’re doing.

 

So, we’ve discussed consent in the context of coerced consent, drunk consent, revoked consent, and implied consent. Here’s a handy guide:  

Is there consent? 

(1) If it’s not a yes, it’s a no  

(2) If it’s a yes after pressure / begging, it’s a no  

(3) If they are drunk, it’s a no  

(4) If they say no at any point, it’s a no  

(5) If they physically imply that it’s a no, it’s a no  

(6) If you’re not sure how they’re feeling, assume it’s a no  

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